published Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Passat clean diesel model to draw Volkswagen's focus in 2014 after 2013 drop in sales

Larry Mutz dusts off a Volkswagen Passat at the Southern Automotive Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Larry Mutz dusts off a Volkswagen Passat at the Southern Automotive Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
  • photo
    A Volkswagen employee prepares to install a back-up camera on a 2013 Passat at the Chattanooga plant.
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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PASSAT U.S. SALES

* 2013 - 109,652

* 2012 - 117,023

* 2011 - 22,835

* 2010 - 12,497

Source: Volkswagen

With Volkswagen Passat sales off for December and 2013, VW this year plans to tell potential buyers more about the Chattanooga-made sedan's clean diesel model to jumpstart growth.

"It's something unique to the industry and that segment," said Mark McNabb, Volkswagen of America's chief operating officer. "We'll talk more and more about the TDI."

Last year, VW sold 34,963 Passat TDIs, up from 26,469 in 2012.

But, total U.S. sales of the Passat dropped 36 percent in December as the midsize sedan suffered from a comparison against a huge month in 2012, according to the company.

Overall, VW posted a 22.7 percent decline in sales for the month versus December 2012. For the year, VW sales were off 6.9 percent, the carmaker reported, while Passat sales dropped 6.3 percent.

According to VW, there's a lot of competition in the midsize sedan segment, but Passat continues to perform well.

At the same time, VW's car-heavy lineup is up against a market where trucks and sport utility vehicles are in favor. The U.S. market last year saw trucks and SUV sales rise about 19 percent while cars only increased about 5.6 percent, said McNabb.

Still, he said, total VW December sales of 34,105 units was its second best for the month since 1972.

Also, VW recorded sales of 407,704 for the year. That's the first time in 40 years the automaker had back-to-back years of over 400,000 in sales, according to VW.

In terms of the Passat, the clean diesel version accounted for 32 percent of the sedan's 2013 sales, according to the German automaker.

McNabb said VW's TDI sales remain strong even as gas prices are relatively low, citing the engine's low-end torque and fuel efficiency.

"The benefit of the drive is pretty significant," he said. The Passat TDI is rated at 43 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in the city.

For VW's overall lineup in the U.S., TDI sales hit an all-time high of 96,000 units in 2013, with Passat sales accounting for more than a third.

McNabb said VW is well positioned for its next phase of growth in the U.S. in 2014.

"We look forward to 2014 with the introduction of the new Golf family, continued awareness and enthusiasm for the brand's core models and the strength of our TDI offerings...," he said.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said even while VW's overall sales were down almost 7 percent and the total U.S. car market was up about 8 percent, the German carmaker still sold more than 400,000 units.

"These are solid numbers, particularly given Volkswagen's aging product line in this ultra-competitive market," he said.

Brauer said that as the automaker consolidates its global platforms and introduces new models in the coming years, starting with the all-new Golf in 2014, it should achieve sales growth on pace with the overall market.

The company plans to produce a new sport utility vehicle for the U.S. market, and an announcement is expected soon about whether it will be assembled in Chattanooga or at VW facilities in Mexico.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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